03 February 2013
You Only Have Time to Explode
From "Some Notes on Violence" by Nathanael West (Contact 1, No. 3, 1932):
In America violence is idiomatic. Read our newspapers. To make the front page a murderer has to use his imagination, he also has to use a particularly hideous instrument. Take this morning's paper: FATHER CUTS SON'S THROAT IN BASEBALL ARGUMENT. It appears on an inside page. To make the first pate, he should have killed three sons and with a baseball bat instead of a knife. Only liberality and symmetry could have made this daily occurrence interesting.
From "A Symposium on Miss Lonelyhearts" (1933):
It's not only in the news section but among the feature sections also that newspapers show they have been published to conceal the news...(William Carlos Williams)
Excerpts from "Some Notes on Miss L." by Nathanael West (Contempo 3, 1933):
As subtitle: "A novel in the form of a comic strip." The chapters to be squares in which many things happen through one action. The speeches contained in the conventional balloons. I abandoned this idea, but retained some of the comic strip technique Each chapter instead of going forward in time, also goes backward, forward, up and down in space like a picture. Violent images are used to illustrate commonplace events. Violent acts are left almost bald.
Forget the epic, the master work. In aAmerica fortunes do not accumulate the soil does not grow, families have no history. Leave slow growth to the book reviewers you only have time to explode. Remember William Carlos Williams' description of the pioneer women who shot their children against the wilderness like cannonballs. Do the same with your novels.
Psychology has nothing to do with reality nor should it be used as motivation. The novelist is no longer a psychologist. Psychology can become something much more important. The great body of case histories can be used in the way the ancient writers used their myths. Freud is your Bullfinch; you can not learn from him....
I was serious therefore I could not be obscene.
I was honest therefore I could not be sordid.
A novelist can afford to be everything but dull.
Posted by Douglas Storm